How I spent my summer vocation: FTC revises Vocational School Guides

We’ve all seen ads for vocational schools promising the inside track on well-paying careers in exciting industries.  If you have clients in the vocational school business, class is in session about revisions to key FTC guides.

In place since 1972, the Vocational School Guides (known more formally as the Guides for Private Vocational and Distance Education Schools) are designed to protect potential enrollees from deceptive statements about educational programs that claim to qualify people for certain occupations or trades.

What kind of practices do the Guides address?  Misleading claims about accreditation, faculty or enrollment qualifications, and government or employment agency affiliation are just a few examples.  They also warn against deceptive representations about financial aid, the transferability of credits, and the availability of jobs for graduates.  In addition, the Guides underscore what should be an obvious point for members of the industry:  that express and implied statements about these schools must meet standards for truthfulness and substantiation under Section 5 of the FTC Act.

Vocational education has changed a lot since the Guides were put in place.  So the FTC asked for your feedback on how to update them to reflect what’s happening now.  You responded — and based on what we heard from consumers, businesses, and others, the FTC has revised the Vocational School Guides.

What’s new?  You'll want to read the updated Guides for the details, but for one thing, you’ll see specific guidance on representations used in recruitment, like graduation or drop-out rates and post-grad job prospects.  The revised Guides also address claims about how long it takes people to complete the program, whether the program will qualify them for licensing exams, and their likelihood of success.  In addition, the Guides warn about misrepresentations regarding financial aid, help with language skills, assistance with learning disabilities, and how many credits students can transfer from other schools.

Has an employee or someone in your family expressed interest in one of these programs?  Before they sign on the dotted line, make sure they read Choosing a Vocational School.


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